Cheryl Huber drives the top-of-the line BMW 750 ("the big one," she says) that you'd expect from the empress of Ocean City real estate. She carries the Versace Couture bag. Her cellphone is on the ring-always setting that comes with the territory.
Her blond bob went on hiatus following chemo for ovarian cancer. (The surgery put her out of commission for all of six days.) But under a thick crop of survivor's frizz, she's still the same Hurricane Cheryl that she's always been, a force of nature in Jersey shore real estate for 27 years now, with $15 million in sales this year. "So far," she noted.
Huber's clients at Prudential Fox & Roach range from O.C.'s most celebrated shorebirds - most recently Gay and Nan Talese - to the scrapers-by who have been saving their pennies for a fixer-up shack on the wrong side of the West Avenue thoroughfare.
"This weekend, I was out showing properties under $200,000," Huber said early this month. "I just listed one for $1.2 million."
Given the free-fall in real-estate values since the beach bubble of 2005, could this finally be the summer for Philadelphia's non-zillionaires to re-entertain their daydreams of owning a little place down the Shore?
Bottom line: Unless you've got millions, don't bother fantasizing about oceanfront property. But if you're willing to settle for the deed to a motel room, you can get into the Ocean City real-estate market for under $100,000.
If you're dreaming the typical Ocean City shore-house dream, maybe a little cottage with a canvas awning out front or a sunny floor-through condo a couple of blocks from the beach, you're dreaming in $400,000-plus land (down from $600,000-plus before the bubble popped).
Some of what's now on the market at common OC price points:
UNDER $250,000: You can pick from several former hotels and motels that went condo during the bubble years, including the Hampton-Inn-ish Biscayne Suites near the boardwalk (roughly $200,000 a unit) and the Crossings Condo-Tel, a throwback motel near a power station (as low as $65,000). Both have pools.
$400,000 to $600,000: Alas, even post-bubble, this is the price range for the quintessential O.C. shore house: a floor-through condo on a popular street like Asbury Avenue that's a block or two from the beach (the better to attract renters when you're not there).
On the bright side: "Those properties were maybe 25 percent to 30 percent higher back in 2005," Huber said.
PRICE IS NO OBJECT, BABY: Properties with a wall of windows overlooking the ocean start about $1.5 million for an oceanfront floor-through condo. It's a view you could definitely get used to if you had the cashola to burn.
The priciest oceanfront home in Ocean City is listed at $4.9 million. To go with the view, you get a single-family manse with 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, an attached 2-car garage, walk-in closets, a fireplace and central air.
Actually, you probably won't get it. But it's nice to dream.